Planned Parenthood Targets Cory Gardner Over Abortion ‘Gag Rule’ In $1 Million Ad Buy

(CNN) – Planned Parenthood will launch an ad campaign costing more than $1 million to pressure Sen. Cory Gardner and two other vulnerable Republican senators for condoning the Trump administration’s rule limiting abortion referrals. The group announced a “seven-figure investment” on Thursday that will target Gardner, Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Each will face ads in their respective states.

Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (credit: CBS)

The campaign addresses the federally-funded Title X family planning program, which provides resources including contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD and HIV preventative education and testing. But the program does not include abortions. The television ads state that the senators have “let the Trump-Pence administration force Planned Parenthood out of Title X.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services moved to bar health care providers participating in the program from discussing abortion with patients or offering abortion referrals, prompting multiple court challenges. After an appeals court allowed the rule to go into effect despite the ongoing challenge against it, Planned Parenthood opted to drop the program’s federal funding in August.

The Title X program serves about 4 million people a year, according to HHS. Planned Parenthood covers 40% of Title X’s patients and has been involved with the program since it began, according to the organization. Critics say the “gag rule” would mostly affect communities of color, low-income people, the uninsured and rural residents.

The television ads unveiled Thursday, which do not explicitly reference abortion or the rule, urge voters to demand that the three senators “protect Title X” or “protect affordable health care.”

The ads look “to reach and mobilize key communities, such as Black women in North Carolina and the Latinx community in Arizona, that have been hit the hardest by the Trump administration’s attacks on sexual and reproductive health care programs, including Title X,” according to a statement from Planned Parenthood.

The campaign will feature television, radio, digital and mailed advertisements, per the group. The television ads in the three states as well as a radio ad running only in North Carolina clock in at six figures, Planned Parenthood Federal Advocacy Communications Director Sam Lau told CNN.

Planned Parenthood is not alone in using the Title X abortion referral rule — which still awaits a decision in appeals court — to pressure Republicans, with Democrats also highlighting the rule as a point of contention in Senate funding bills this session.

A markup of the Senate bill that funds HHS was abruptly canceled in September after Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington requested a vote on her amendment reversing the rule, according to a Democratic aide. A Republican aide told CNN that the bill’s markup was postponed due to a proposed Democratic amendment that violated the parties’ budget negotiation agreement. That bill has yet to be voted on by the full Senate, as appropriators face a December 20 deadline to fund the government.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.